Saturday, November 22, 2014

"The Woodcarver" a poem by Chuang Tzu

The Woodcarver, by Chuang Tzu

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand.
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They
Said it must be
The work of spirits.
The prince of Lu said to the master carver:
“What is your secret?”

Khing replied: “I am only a workman: I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work
You commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
On trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten gain and success.
After five days
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.
By this time all thought of your
Highness
And the courts had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell stand.

“Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When It  right tree appeared before
My eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it,
Clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my
Hand
And begin.

“If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

“What happened?
My own collected thought
Encountered the hidden potential in
The wood;
From this live encounter cam the
Work

Which you ascribe to the spirits.”

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